Thursday, June 27, 2013

World War Z Review

World War Z Review

I am going to admit something before we get too far in this review: I have a huge soft spot for zombies. They are ridiculous yes, but there is something so fun about them when used right. I have loved just about every George A. Romero zombie movie. I think Zack Snyder did a pretty good job with the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. I love "Shaun of Dead" with a heart of passion. I think "The Walking Dead" is not only a great television series, but a great comic series too. I love Xbox nights with "Left 4 Dead." "28 Days Later" was a clever new take on the genre and so was Stephen King's "Cell."

"World War Z" was an equally unique book. Written by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks. Max has a keen voice and made something outside-the-box with familiar material. If you ever get a chance to get your hands on the book, read it cover to cover. I bring this all up with warning. The 2013 movie "World War Z" is absolutely nowhere in sync with the book. The movie is its own thing, almost completely separate, with the "WWZ" name slapped on it. So don't expect to compare and contrast the parallels if you are a fan of the book.

Since about 2007, there has been a "World War Z" movie trying to get on its feet. After all the script rewrites, production studio battles, and development hell, I was curious to see how this final product would play out. Overall, its not bad. For the summer season, this will surely be a fun ticket to buy. It's just not something I'd call great. Each piece of media I mentioned above I'd prefer to see over "World War Z."

Even though the film is a lot of fun, there are two glaring problems with the movie. I think they are both equally important in bringing a zombie movie to life. First of all, there is a problem with zombies. I don't care if zombies can run. "28 Days Later," and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake made it clear that zombies could run. But when they are running so fast you can't make out what they look like, I think that is a problem. The zombies in this movie travel in supersonic herds. They come off as a horde of CGI ants. Which was something of a letdown. Sure, there are quiet moments, when we get a good look at a few of them. Still, they are quick moments that don't add up to much.

So okay, we have enemies that look phony. If the studio still managed to tell a great story, I could possibly give the zombies a pass. Except this story is pretty episodic and quick. Sometimes I felt like I was watching a friend play a video game. When Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family are attacked by zombies in New Jersey, they quickly leave the state and are sent to shipping vessels in the Atlantic Ocean. Lane was a former UN employee and he chosen to go around the world to find a way to stop the zombie onslaught. Why he is chosen, I don't know. I guess he was "the chosen one" or something.

Gerry Lane goes to about three or four different countries. And I'll be honest, they feel like mission checkpoints. He sets foot off a helicopter and begins running, shooting zombies here and there. He meets a specific character which gives him a small piece of information with which Lane will have to use in another country. Lane will then run back to the helicopter to go to the next destination, and shoot zombies here and there. This to me feels like the very essence of a video game, and we all know that playing the game is more fun then watching someone else play it.

Brad Pitt is fine as Gerry Lane. The only thing is Gerry Lane isn't very much of a character. I know some zombie movies are known to be lacking in character development, but its almost painful with "World War Z." Most characters seem to enter and exit before we really get to know them and I found that to be rather distracting. Even the relationship between Gerry Lane and his family isn't fleshed out at all. These are the characters we are really suppose to identify with. But they are all so lifeless that they end up feeling like zombies too.

By now, your probably wondering what the good stuff is? Some of the big action set pieces are very fun to watch. I really like the opening scene when Gerry Lane and his family are stuck in traffic. There are some memorable scenes hidden in the big action set pieces that I liked very much. I liked that "World War Z" shows the audience the epidemic happening all over the world. The only characteristic from the book that is featured in the movie is that this story is international. That was something I always hoped to see in a zombie movie and I think it was handled fairly well. Even though the zombies are hard to pinpoint, they have some imagery which was pretty memorable. And even though Brad Pitt is a non-character from the start, he has enough charisma to coast through the movie with.

"World War Z" feels like a summer movie, but one with which we will likely forget after a couple more movies later this season. It has good action beats within its running time, but story-wise the film comes up a little short. I also just wished we had some interesting looking zombies, instead CGI undead versions of "The Flash." But don't get me wrong, there is enough fun here for a decent time at the theater, and in the season of dumb fun, "World War Z" may fit the bill perfectly. But if you are a fan of the book, you maybe bitterly disappointed with this movie. I hope in about 20 or so years, a studio actually tries a true adaptation of the book. I personally think it would work best as a mockumentary, but that's just me. I dream that the real story will be done justice. Until then, this is at least a fun start.


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